Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Mirror mirror on the car: part 2

The Dunnock was at it again this morning but it soon became apparent it wasn't a simple case of a bird attacking its own reflection in a mirror, far from it. Dunnocks have complex mating systems and may be monogamous (pairs), or engage in polyandry (two or three males with one female), polygyny (one male with two females), polygyandry (two or three males sharing two three or four females). The behaviour of this particular bird appears to add another variation to those mating systems.

When I saw it by one of the car wing mirrors again this morning it would have been easy to assume that it was simply treating its own reflection as an intruder, which is what I had thought the other day. The difference today was that I noticed there was another bird nearby, presumably a female. I watched for a while, taking photos as I did so, and realised it was seeking out and displaying to its reflection but only on the side of the car that could be seen by the female.

A grotty photo but then it was another miserable wet morning and it was taken through double glazing and two windows of a car. The other Dunnock was in the hedge which can be seen in the background.
As the presumed female Dunnock moved round the car so did the displaying male, seeking out its reflection as it did so. The wing flicking the bird engaged in was akin to that of displaying male trying to drive out an intruder but also that of a male in one of the complex mating systems involving more than one male. It didn't just use the mirrors and displayed to other reflective surfaces too.

Now this may seem far fetched but this bird seemed to be trying to impress the female by displaying to its own reflection in the absence of another male or males.

King of the car.

To try and confirm what was going on I covered the wing mirror on the far side of the car.

When the female Dunnock went to the far side of the car the male Dunnock went to the far mirror even though it was covered. This suggests its behaviour wasn't a simple reaction to the accidental encounter of its reflection. This bird seemed to have learned where it could encounter its reflection in relation to the position of the female and went there in order to impress the female.

What no mirror.
The fact that the male Dunnock went and sat in front of the covered mirror when the female was on that side of the car shows it was actively seeking out its own reflection and where, in the male Dunnock's mind, it would find a potential intruder/second male (in the form of its reflection) to react to and so impress the female. Now the thought of that is really interesting. This male Dunnock is effectively using the reflective surfaces of the car to display against in order to impress a female. Perhaps some male Dunnocks put on a better display if they perceive they are in a complex mating system rather than a simple monogomous relationship. How the female perceived this is anybody's guess, especially as she wouldn't have been able to see the reflections.

1 comment:

  1. So funny!!! I liked reading this nice and funny story. Great pictures as well:)